DSA Supports Full Decriminalization of Sex Work

We are at a critical moment. Sex-worker-led movements all over the world are engaged in an existential struggle to win basic human and labor rights for one of the most criminalized, stigmatized, and persecuted workforces in history. Often spoken over but rarely listened to, current workers engaged in the trade of sex and erotic services face the lethal force of the carceral state, the disdain and disinterest of ‘civil’ society, and the denial of basic human rights by late capitalism. In the US specifically, this uprising is also battling the increased surveillance and oppression inflicted by the bipartisan passage of SESTA/FOSTA.

The removal of carceral threats is a necessary prerequistite for sex workers to be able to engage in labor organizing, to swing the power imbalance of discriminatory societal/corporate policy, police, and state authority back into the hands of sex workers. This means eliminating prostitution, loitering, solicitation, and vagrancy related laws, eliminating laws that criminalize sex worker’s bank accounts, their livelihood, their homes, their families, their collective organizing and working spaces, their work online and offline.

As socialists, we need to hold ourselves accountable for our failures. Our organization remained silent when sex workers asked for our solidarity in fighting back against these unjust laws. We committed to begin remedying this harm to the best of our ability at our 2019 National Convention by passing Resolution 53: “Pro-Decriminalization of Sex Work.”

This statement seeks to make explicit the content of that commitment.

We understand that the path away from sex work criminalization lacks a roadmap. We commit to take direction from current sex workers in guiding what will be their chosen way forward in both local and national campaigns. We also understand that sex-workers are no more a monolithic group than any other sector of workers, and that at times this will yield conflicting demands.

We will center the following values:

  • The self-determination and bodily autonomy of all workers. Wage laborers’ motivation or reasons for being workers in a certain field should not divide us, nor exclude them from labor rights or organizing.
  • All worker’s demands for housing, healthcare, fair wages, and other basic needs.
  • Firm anti-carceralism with zero tolerance of partial criminalization strategies that perpetuate harm against sex workers under the guise of saviorism. All wage-labor includes elements of coercion. All workers⁠ — precisely because of coercion and exploitation — deserve rights. “End demand” gives police pretext to feed vulnerable populations into the racist, ableist, transphobic and sexist prison system. Policing is not part of any solution.
  • Internationalism and an understanding that much of trafficking is produced by policing the movement of people across borders. Opening our borders will alleviate exploitation; border controls and anti-migrant policies will continue to exacerbate it.
  • That decriminalization is not an end goal, but a necessary means toward the goal of liberation.
  • That we, as an organization, will undertake an internal educational project about sex work by presenting the perspectives of current workers.
  • That we, as an organization, will uphold these values in our endorsements processes by preparing ourselves to ask questions and provide our perspective when engaging with electoral politics.